via “For one thing …”.
A fresh layer of powdery snow glistens on the evergreens surrounding us. Their lower extremities form snowy tunnels and their higher branches reach toward the gray sky of dusk as a light snow cascades around us. My husband pulls our toddler in a blue plastic sled along this snowy trail as we create new tracks. Our preschooler follows in the two continuous trails of my elongated skis with little feet strapped securely to her smaller pair. Youthful and spirited Pepper the dog races around us. He weaves in and out of the forest and tentatively steps on the shallow ice-covered stream. He loves the comfort the cool temperatures and deep snow bring to his heavily coated body. The ice cracks below his furry paws and he rushes back to the safety of solid ground and to be with us. Winter is in full force and we have made time to revel in…
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A broken piece of discarded glass or a treasured, one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry?
An old scrap of fabric or a rare, vintage swath with which to reupholster?
A used can ready to be recycled or a shiny medium with which to up-cycle?
It’s all about perspective. As we welcome a new year, we traditionally look to make big changes and start anew. Maybe we need to take it easy on ourselves and focus on the good that we already have in place. Making plans and setting goals to tweak, or appreciate and accept, the finer points.
This river town is not short on amazing vista views. From atop the ridges, one gains an eagle’s eye view of the town, forest, river, and trail below and it is breathtaking. Some of my favorite finds, though, have occurred while traipsing around at lower altitudes. They are little pieces of history that have been tumbling through the clear spring water for the better part of a century. When I find a mid-century, triangular remnant of a once-refreshing Coca-Cola, I come to fully understand the meaning of “glasses that are coke bottle thick”. The hues are different from the increasingly rare and much thinner glass we know today. I pluck them from the clean, swiftly flowing, icy water. I am unable to leave them be. Once home, I reach into my pockets and drop them into an old blue Ball jar resting on a shelf in my kitchen. A jar fully intact and in contrast to the many blue pieces it holds.
Once dingy and sometimes jagged, with a little polishing, they gleam with a new purpose. I am struck by how this is true of many of life’s haggard details.
Happy New Year.
For more information on the pendants featured, please visit Frost+Fern by clicking or cutting/pasting the link below. New items are always being added as the inventory sells.
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Please visit this blog at it’s new home at Life of Riley, http://www.Emlenton.org
It is easy to stay within the familiar guidelines of life. A comfort zone. Overstepping these boundaries, however, can awaken a quieted spirit. New sights and experiences seem to exercise my mind and give me happiness. Maybe it is the flow of those good endorphins. Maybe our minds are just always yearning for fresh experiences to process.
Our newest adventure was an off-road Segway tour of a nearby historic property. Beautiful sights were everywhere and learning a new way to travel enhanced every turn. My husband arranged this even for my 39th birthday and I am glad I agreed. I learned to say “Yes” to new experiences more often. I think my body, mind, and soul will thank me for it.
Play. Toddlers and preschoolers do it best. The word takes on different meanings to all of us as we age and the little tykes make it painfully obvious that, at a certain point in life, many of us have lost the ability to play in its simplest form. We overcomplicated it by making it difficult, expensive, or simply unattainable due to time constraints or lack of focus. Playing starts to mean expensive gear and traveling to far-off places. Put the housework and work commitments aside for the day and play with your kids. Wow – when you force yourself to relearn this primal skill, your life will turn upside down and prioritize itself. It’s not always easy to make my brain engage on this level, but, so well worth it when I do.
A child’s laughter is infectious and the sweetest sound. I often gauge the success of the day by the number of times my kids have burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter. What a priceless treat and so amazingly easy to do. We are all happier for it. What a sweet way to live.
It seems that most outdoor or lifestyle magazines I pick up tend to lean to the extreme in terms of adventure and getting the most out of life. I am often defeated and exhausted by the time I finish an article. Who am I fooling – with two little ones at home, just finishing an article is an accomplishment! In this stage of life, grocery shopping with the kids, getting them both to sleep at a decent hour or living well on one salary is all the adventure I am up for most days. But, I don’t want that. Life needs to more that the mundane. But, as much as I want to hike into the backcountry of Alaska for a week long camping trip, that certainly isn’t happening any time soon.
Today was a long day. My husband spent the morning and afternoon painting the house and I felt like I was walking through quicksand trying to make it a productive, if not fun, day. In the past week, we have been making an effort to make plans to try out a paddleboard we had recently acquired, but, fate had not been in our favor during recent attempts. We really needed some adventure now and knew that this board was the key.
By 5:00, I could have been easily swayed – as I am sure he could have been – to pop the tops of a few beers and hang out in the yard with the kids for the evening. The thought of packing up the car and keeping the children happy and safe while we attempted this new sport was not the most exciting thought. It was all intimidating – would we find a quiet spot on the lake where we could potentially look like fools without embarrassment? Would we even like it? Would it be worth the hassle of getting there?
If we didn’t at least try, we would never know. Isn’t that what adventure is all about? Just getting out there and giving something new a modest try. We did and it was a fantastic (if not mild) adventure for the whole family.
Just five years ago, our lives were drastically different. My husband and I were fully dedicated to our respective careers and living a fast-paced city life with no children in the picture. Once we (to the shock of friends and family) decided to start a family, we knew we wanted to make some big lifestyle changes. We didn’t want “accessory” children whom we saw as much as our pet dog at the time.
If I was to be a mother, I wanted to embrace that role fully and not share my time with my ever-present smart phone and long list of needy clients. I came to the conclusion that “I can have it all” is not a phrase I cared to strive for – at least in the manner most perceive it to mean. I had no doubt I could juggle family and career, but, at what cost? For me, it wasn’t worth it. Letting my six-figure income go was another story, of course. I needed to make sure we had no sleepless nights worrying about making ends meet.
So, we (gulp) sold our four thousand square foot renovated Victorian that we had painstakingly restored ourselves. I sold my Mercedes (gulp). I sold my Louis Vuitton collection (double-gulp) and we set out for a low-debt life. Our city house had been purchased at a bargain-basement price twelve years beforehand when no one wanted to live on our block. When we decided to sell, the house had quadrupled in value and hipsters from DC and the West Coast were among the dozens of first day showings. It was time for us to move on to a new life in a small river town a hundred miles away. There, we would be able to purchase a home (that we loved just as much as our last) with the profit from the sale of our home and enjoy the (budget-friendly) wilderness, trails, and river nearby. No mortgage meant we could survive on one salary. A little scary, but, we were strangely confident in our decision.
And now here we are. Two small children enliven our home as we approach our forties with a sense of accomplishment and contentment. We made the right decision and I couldn’t imagine handling the pressures of out-of-home-work and keeping a home comforting, clean and inviting ( with A LOT of help from my husband) while raising the loves of our lives and creating healthy home-cooked meals to fill their little bellies. For me, the financial sacrifice was well-worth it. Simply being “mommy” was the greatest honor, in my mind, and I wanted to take it seriously. These are little human beings new to the world. I wasn’t about to screw them up. I realized, my career was just that…a job. I didn’t want it, nor it’s material perks, to define me and I was giddy when I realized life can be slow and easy and sweet. I have never second-guessed our decision.
Until, a handful of acquaintances from our past life started to offer their thoughts”
“What DO you do all day?”
“Don’t you get tired of being with your kids?”
“You’ll get tired of being a stay-at-home-mom. Just wait.”
“What? You’re too smart for that.”
“Don’t you miss the city?”
And, it goes on.
The words stung the first time I heard them, I must admit. This was true for a number of reasons that are too much to go into here. In short, though, they stung because I thought we were pretty smart for taking a hard look at our lives and making the necessary changes to make a better life for ourselves. They stung because the comments are ignorant. They stung most of all because they made me take a harsh look at a simple life we cherish and feel such pride for.
It wasn’t easy creating a simple life. It was surely the hardest goal we ever set and achieved. It would have been easier to keep plugging away and go with the flow in many respects. Mothering 24/7 is the hardest job I have ever had, but, far more fulfilling than answering to a Blackberry or iPhone 24/7. Getting paid in hugs and “I love you” ‘s on a constant basis keeps me going versus waiting for a paycheck. When they get sick or are just having a hard time being little, I can readjust out plans for the day. No work schedule to answer to nor bosses to call in sick to. We can just exist and make every day count while I help them to assimilate into and discover this new world. Our budget is much smaller, but, somehow even that is comforting.
Regardless, we all have a right to go after and achieve the kind of life we want and shouldn’t be judged for it. It has been surprising to me to hear the”What do you do all day?” or “What will you do when your kids are in school?” questions as much as I do. What is wrong with just being a mom? It is a hard enough job whether they are in school or not and, in my humble opinion, the most important job there is.
I see this new version of me as the most successful version so far. We sought to seek out and achieve the life that was right for our family in a calculated way. It wasn’t easy trying to obtain a simpler life and even harder to keep appreciating it when so few in our society share our vision for life. When I think of the alternative, I beam from ear to ear with the thought of our sweet and rewarding life of everyday pleasures, though. This is it – there is no chance to do it all over again if we miss the boat. I want no regrets. Sadly, society tends to be impressed with the superficial and material. As long as we are putting our kids first while creating a safe and comfortable quality of life that makes the whole family happy, we got it figured out. In the meantime, since abandoning my demanding career for more time at home and with my children, I now truly believe that found a way to have it all … at least all that matters.
Decorating our home is one simple pleasure I get a lot out of. I love perusing various decorating catalogues, magazines, and websites for ideas and Pinterest has become my go-to guilty pleasure when it comes to instant inspiration. As with any hobby or interest, the price tags sure can take the fun out it, though. Do I need to let go of any fancy or trendy decorating ideas if I want to keep my life simple? Going back to work full or part-time would allow me to buy $80 pillows, but, that takes away our simple life. Plus, I would have no time to decorate anyway … nor time to enjoy the view, for that matter. Not worth it. What’s a girl to do? Go to the thrift store, of course! Trays, vintage martini and champagne cocktail glasses, solid oak picture frames, tables, chairs … a shopping spree for $35? I get a little giddy. Plus, my preschool daughter can have her pick of the litter when it comes to “Mommy, can I get this? Pleeeease?”
“Of course, sweetie. Buy three!” For 50 cents each, why not?
So, as I have been seeking out my favorite “boutiques”, I stumbled across a new addiction: remnant fabric. Gorgeous prints from the 1940’s and 1950’s have been mine all mine for a dollar each. One of which still had the Sears and Roebuck’s rusty staple attached holding the price tag and perfect department store folds. Even newer (but good-quality because let’s face it – new rarely means good-quality anymore) curtains and duvet coverings have been had to carry home and be transformed into new treasures.
The best part is not the money I save, though. Going through the fabric racks and bins with my four-year-old daughter has created wonderful memories. She loves to pick out a few special pieces for herself and retreats to a quiet spot upon our return with her goods. A little yarn, glue, preschooler scissors and fabric keeps her little brain inspired for an hour. Watching her sit and concentrate on her designs is a real treat. Better yet, though, is when I am ready to sew. My husband jokingly (in poor taste, albeit) refers to the scene as a child labor sweatshop, but, this child is all smiles as she asks if she can press the pedal and climbs under the dining room table. She patiently waits for me to say “okay” and gently presses the pedal with her tiny hands. She is good at her position, too! With her help, I have made curtains for every window in our home along with bean-filled fabric door stops, Halloween costumes, pillows, and more. She loves telling guests that she helped to make the pillows or curtains. So, all in all, I might save quite a few bucks, but, I have realized that the sentimental quality in those one dollar pillows outweighs the eighty dollar options any day.
What a treat. A simple life for me, indeed.
They say the kitchen is the heart of a home. That, I can truly understand. The messiest of life’s moments seem to happen here along with the warmest. This particular noontime found a baby girl with chocolate cookie smeared from head to toe. After that, a dip in the sink was a must. Our sink. It was the centerpiece of a recent kitchen renovation. This cast iron bully was put in place over sixty years ago and we did not have the heart to replace it with a new and shinier model. Why? It cleans up just as well and is an area that has surely seen more activity in our humble abode than any other. Who are we to cast it aside? It broke my heart to imagine it lying on the floor of a construction refuge warehouse or in some other home. It belongs here. For the time being – as fleeting as it is – our little one is most comfortable in this kitchen sink for bath time. The stoic sink always cradles her body safely in the warm water. On this particular late spring day, she listened to the birds calling to one another just outside the adjacent window. She cooed a call back to them as she curiously splashed the fluid liquid around her. As I gently rinsed the delicate skin of our sweet baby, I was struck by the contrast. The palm of my hand rested on the worn patch on the sink divider. A coal-black patch that most would see as an unacceptable mar and grounds for replacement. My palm often rests in this exact spot presumably chipped away by heavy cast iron skillets and worn smooth by the hands of the past two mothers of the home who stood in my proverbial shoes before me. Even in the most chaotic moments, that cold hard resting spot provides comfort in the storm often created by two lovely, innocent, demanding and needy small children. A reminder that this has all been done before. Life is full of sweet and sour and the sweetest moments will pass along with the sour. Cherish them all.